Native American Teen Denied Diploma for Wearing Feather to Graduation

featherHigh school graduation is supposed to mark that big transition from childhood to reality. The graduates walk in as kids, walk out as adults. That's the theory anyway. But as the kerfuffle over 17-year-old Chelsey Ramer, an Alabama high schooler whose diploma is being held hostage until she coughs up a $1,000 fine for wearing an eagle feather to graduation, illustrates, it doesn't always work that way.

Ramer has made national news for her protest of the rules at Escambia Academy High School. A member of the Poarch Creek Band of Indians, the teen was one of a group of students who asked administration if they could wear feathers on their mortarboards on graduation day to honor their Native American heritage.

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The school said no.

Several students opted not to wear the feathers. One moved it to a small necklace on her chest.

Only Chelsey went ahead and wore the feather on her cap.

Now she's angry with the school for punishing her, and she's telling the whole world.

Yup, another entitled kid who doesn't think the rules apply to her.

When will it end?

You know, I'm all for kids standing up for what they believe in. We need to teach our kids that when they think something is wrong, they don't have to roll over and take it. Think of where we'd be today if Rosa Parks hadn't sat in the front of the bus.

And yet ... even as we try to raise upright citizens, parents need to balance the "you can do it" attitude with a sprinkle of humility. Not everything has to be a battle. Kids are not always right. Not every rule needs to be redone for them.

Chelsey Ramer asked for permission. Her school said no. She did it anyway, ignoring perfectly good options -- such as the feather on a necklace idea -- that would have allowed her to honor her heritage and meet the school's rules at the same time. 

Is the rule dumb? Sure, but dumb rules aren't necessarily ones we need to fight. Dumb rules inconvenience us. They annoy us. They don't majorly affect people's lives.

It's the latter, the rules that are truly violating a person's rights to life and liberty, that we teach our kids to stand up against.

Dumb rules? We teach kids to follow them. Because that's part of being a grownup.

Chelsey Ramer knew the consequences of breaking a dumb rule. And now she wants us to feel bad for her?

Sorry, kiddo, but it doesn't work that way. You can't go through life ignoring rules and then being mad that you're punished for doing so. Try that at work some day, and you're likely to get your hind end canned ... and for good reason.

How do you balance teaching your kids to stand up for what they believe in against the need to follow rules?

 

Image via Stewart Black/Flickr

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